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Authors: Peter Abrahams

Pressure Drop

BOOK: Pressure Drop
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PRAISE FOR THE WRITING OF PETER ABRAHAMS

“Peter Abrahams is my favorite American suspense novelist.” —Stephen King

“The care with which Abrahams brings his characters to life sets him apart from most thriller writers working today.” —
The New Yorker

Hard Rain

“A good thriller needs style, atmosphere and a surprising plot, and
Hard Rain
… has all of these and something extra: depth of feeling.” —
The New York Times Book Review

“A class-A thriller.” —James Ellroy

“A riveting tale of betrayal and vengeance set against a backdrop of sixties craziness and enriched by some wonderfully wicked observations on the way we live and love.” —Jonathan Kellerman

The Fury of Rachel Monette

“A roller coaster of a novel.” —
Los Angeles Times

“Visual, frightening, fast-paced and mesmerizing. [Abrahams] is a natural-born artist, a brilliant young writer who has a truly remarkable talent for writing psychological thrillers of enormous power, depth and intensity.” —
The Denver Post

Pressure Drop

“[A] gripping tale … Maintaining suspense throughout, Abrahams sets his scenes with evocative details.” —
Publishers Weekly

“Thrillers aren't generally known for sharp social observation, or for sympathetic examination of career women caught with their biological alarm clocks set to go off and good men a scarce commodity.
Pressure Drop
supplies both, along with the requisite amount of nasty villains and brave deeds.” —
Booklist

Tongues of Fire

“Israel as a nation has ceased to exist. Israel and the Israeli [people] have been driven from their land into the sea by Syria, Iraq and other Arab states. Thus begins
Tongues of Fire
.… This fascinating story relates very plausibly to our age and time. It is gripping.” —
Bestsellers

Pressure Drop

Peter Abrahams, also known as Spencer Quinn

For my father

Full fathom five thy father lies;

Of his bones are coral made;

Those are pearls that were his eyes:

Nothing of him that doth fade

But doth suffer a sea-change

Into something rich and strange
.

—
THE TEMPEST

The blue hole isn't blue. It is gray, even under a clear sky; just a quiet pond in the woods. Any of the village boys could skip a stone across it, but they never do. They don't go near the blue hole because a monster lives at the bottom. The fisherman even claims he has seen it; the fisherman who drinks a bottle of rum a day.

The villagers don't go near the blue hole, so no one observes the two men in ill-fitting rubber suits, slipping under the surface and sinking down in the clear water. Each diver uncoils a long rope as he descends, one end tied to his weight belt, the other to a tree by the pond. The ropes make them feel secure.

At 50 feet, the water smells like rotten eggs and turns red. A little deeper and it is odorless and black. The men are prepared: one has a torch. He switches it on. They swim down a yellow barrel of light.

At 122 feet, they enter a cave. They have been in it before. Their supplies are waiting by the back wall. The cave is narrow. There is room for only one man to work. The other man shines the torch.

These are smart men, but untrained in the use of underwater equipment. They make mistakes. First, they don't realize how quickly a working man can exhaust his air. Second, the man with the torch forgets to shine it on the working man's pressure gauge; he shines it on the man's hands instead. So there is no warning. The working man, already breathing hard with exertion, has not noticed the extra strain of his last few breaths. He breathes in, breathes out, breathes in: and nothing comes. He drops the rocks from his hands, turns to the other man, makes gestures in the cone of light. Frantic gestures. The man with the torch doesn't understand, backs away. The working man panics and grabs at his companion's regulator. He misses it, and knocks the torch out of his companion's hand. It falls. The light goes off. They are blind.

The man with no air clings to the man with air. They are wedged together at the back of the cave, bodies and ropes entangled. Now the man with the air panics too. He reaches for his knife, finds it, hacks at any rope he can feel. He is in such a frenzy that some time passes before he realizes he is free; in utter darkness in a cave in the blue hole that isn't blue, but free.

HENRIK

1

He knew the ceiling so well. Its soft white smoothness, a perfect screen for the unreeling of his aquatic daydreams, was marred only by a single hair pulled from a painter's brush and caught in the matte finish. The hair didn't bother him. It gave him something to focus on in all that vast bleakness. What did bother him was the spider web in the corner, directly above his head, and the fat brown spider, leaning over the curve of the gilded molding. Sometimes the spider rubbed the tips of its two front legs together, as if knowing something delightful and a little nasty was about to happen.

He was an expert on the ceiling. The problem was he didn't know what room he lay in.

A muffled footfall. His hearing, like his vision, had become acute. It picked up the tiny metallic squeak of the doorknob turning. The spider ducked back behind the molding. Then a draft touched his face, cooling it; the door had opened. Somewhere music played. He longed for music. This was Wayne Newton, singing “Viva Las Vegas.” He longed for music, and when it came he got Wayne Newton. He wanted to laugh. He laughed on the inside. The door closed, cuting off the singer in mid-tremolo.

Footsteps approached. He believed he knew whose they were, but when no face came into view, he began to doubt. On the lower edge of his vision, where everything grew blurry, he thought he saw a liver-spotted hand. Then it was gone. He couldn't be sure.

Cool air curled around his body; the cover had been pulled back. Dry fingertips brushed over his stomach. They manipulated something, fingertips dry as cracked old paper. Then a long hard foreign body was drawn slowly out of him. The relief was immense, breathtaking. It was almost too much to bear.

But the manipulation hadn't ceased. The dry hand gripped him, not gently, not roughly: purposefully. It began to move in purposeful ways. The liver-spotted hand:
God, God
, he wanted to cry out at the top of his lungs. But he was silent, and his autonomous flesh responded in a fleshly manner. The pleasure came in a spasm of despair; for an instant he felt something cold and smooth, like glass. Then it was over.

Footsteps withdrew. The doorknob squeaked. The opening door sucked fresh air into the room. No music played. The door closed. He heard a single footfall. Then silence.

The spider crept out over the curve of the molding. It rubbed its two front legs together for a while.
Could no one see it? Could no one see the web, and with a flick of a broom sweep it away?

The spider rounded the curve of the molding and started walking down the wall. It came closer. Then it passed out of his range of vision. He waited to feel its legs in his hair, on his face.

While he waited, he looked at the ceiling. It turned blue, deep-sea blue. He hated the sea and always had, how it rose and fell like a breathing thing. He dropped into it, down, down. Green eels stretched toward him, watching him with their little eyes, watching him sink. He sank. A leather suitcase tumbled slowly by until all he could see were its brass corners reflecting the occasional gleam of watery sunlight from far below, like lost coins.

2

“All happy families suck. Unhappy families suck too.”

At 6:47 on the morning of her thirty-ninth birthday, Nina Kitchener stared at those eight words. They made up the entire first paragraph of the manuscript on her breakfast table:
Living Without Men and Children … and Loving It
, by Lois Filer, Ph.D. A glob of no-sugar, no-fat, no-taste marmalade slid off Nina's pumpernickel bagel and onto the page. She tried to brush it off, but instead smeared an orange crescent through the second paragraph, like the mark of some far-gone editor.

Taking the manuscript, Nina went into the little room she used for an office and climbed on the Lifecycle. She turned the pages as she pedaled. Page 7: “The time has come for new modalities. If you can't have it all, what do you really want?” Page 160: “Ask yourself: are you living for others, or are you living for you? If you're living for others, then think about this:
Who is living for you?
Do you still want to be thinking about that when you finally realize the answer is no one
and it's too late?”

In ten minutes, Nina had absorbed the gist of the manuscript; in twenty she'd cycled 7.3 miles. With a red pin, she marked her progress on a large wall map of the world. She was cycling from Paris to Rangoon. The red pin put her into the heart of the Hindu Kush. Next week she would be in Pakistan, in a month, Kashmir. Nina went into the bathroom, where she brushed her teeth with a secret formula anti-plaque paste probably not for sale in the Khyber Pass. She had the best of both worlds.

The teeth in the mirror were good teeth, not as white as the capped teeth that Dr. Pearl, her dentist with three alimonies to pay, kept touting, but white enough for real ones. The hair was good hair—dark brown, thick, healthy—and subtly cut by Sherman of Sherman's at a hundred dollars a pop, not counting tip. The face? Safe to say that it was not: aristocratic or peasant; hawk-nosed or snub-nosed; sexpot or cutesy; arrogant or submissive. And that it was: intelligent; well-proportioned; middle-class; the kind of face that might turn up in an early Manet. Would it be too much to suppose that the big dark eyes would have given him a chance to show off a little?

BOOK: Pressure Drop
12.95Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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